A Story of Remarkable Team EQ: The Maiden Crew

In 1989, Tracy Edwards put together the first ever all-women’s crew to enter the Round the World sailing race. After years of putting together their team, raising funding, and fixing up their boat, The Maiden, the Maiden team’s journey became one that would go down in history for its trailblazing, inspirational story. The team’s race was full of powerful lessons highlighting the power of team EQ.

The Trials. As a warm-up, just a month before the race in 1989, the Maiden team entered a short practice race. From the outset, Tracy (the captain) and Marie-Claude (the first mate) butted heads. Despite reporting to Tracy, Marie-Claude wielded her extra experience to make key decisions without Tracy’s approval. Their clashing boiled over when a crew member broke her wrist only to find that there was no medical kit on board. As they packed the boat before the race, Marie-Claude had gone behind Tracy’s back to instruct the medic not to bring the kit. Angry, Tracy lashed out at the medic who responded, “Quite frankly Tracy, we don’t know who’s in charge of this boat.” Without proper equipment to manage Jo’s injury, the Maiden crew dropped out of the race, and Tracy fired Marie-Claude. The team lost Marie-Claude, and they also lost all of her experience. It was too late to replace her before the big race, and the team was disheartened and anxious for what was to come next.

Team EQ Lesson #1: Speaking up is essential. When two members of a team clash, the whole team feels it. Emotions ran high when Jo broke her wrist, and because the crew was relatively new, they weren’t sure how to deal with the tension. The medic’s response to Tracy (that she isn’t sure who is in charge) was invaluable on behalf of a confused team. By speaking up, the medic shared a problem weighing on the whole team, and this was ultimately the moment that convinced Tracy to fire Marie-Claude. If the medic had been too afraid to speak up, the tense atmosphere may have never cleared. When a team’s emotions fluctuate, it’s a core tenant of team EQ that all members hold accountability for the team and speak up on behalf of the group. Otherwise, extreme dynamics and emotions may pass by or get brushed under the rug, until they come back later on and interfere with the team’s performance.

The First Leg. The team set off nervously on the first 6,000-mile leg from Southampton to Uruguay. They were already down two crew members from their trial run gone wrong, and the journalists, media, and other teams all forecasted, and even bet on, the Maiden crew’s failure. The crew blocked this outside noise and got to work. They assigned roles and split into two teams of five, taking turns on four-hour shifts to sail through the night. Various members, each playing to their strengths, filled in Marie-Claude’s previous responsibilities (like helming the boat). They got off to a slow start, but once the wind picked up, they didn’t just make it to Uruguay; they won the first leg. Then, they won the second leg too.

Team EQ Lesson #2: Team dynamic trumps experience. The team started the first leg nervous. Marie-Claude’s depth of experience made her a source of comfort despite her intensity and constant clashing with Tracy. What happened in the absence of the most seasoned sailor? Things went more smoothly than ever. The team’s internal relationship management became a strength instead of a weakness. Teams skilled at managing their emotions are able to develop a strong sense of trust so that people feel comfortable stepping up and playing to their strengths. Interviewed about the change from the trial to the first leg, the team commented:

  • “All of a sudden, people who weren’t necessarily allowed to step up, stepped up, and were incredibly good.”
  • “Team spirit was very good and became stronger and stronger.”
  • “Our fear that we couldn’t get somebody that could helm the boat in terrible conditions was completely misfounded.”

The Finish: On May 28, 1990, at the end of the last leg, the crew realized that despite their early successes, they wouldn’t be able to win. The team was devastated initially, but as they approached the finish at Southampton, they spotted a dingy full of 12-year-old kids cheering. Then another boat. Then another. A parade of boats escorted the Maiden to their second-place finish. Though they didn’t win the race, thousands of inspired people boated out to celebrate them.

Lesson #3: Team EQ skills elevate teams beyond immediate results. In an interview, Tracy reflected back on the finish of the race saying, “By that time we didn’t need to talk to do any of the maneuvers we did. We thought each other’s thoughts before we were even doing them. I didn’t feel the need to speak. It was just closeness.” This degree of closeness shows a team high in emotion awareness (knowing each other’s emotions even in silence) and internal management (their roles and movements are smoothed out to the point that barely need to communicate). Another team member, Tanja, described the end of the journey saying, “That was a special thing. We respected each other. We trusted each other. There was never an argument.” This describes a team that worked hard to manage their emotions in order to respect each other’s feelings and build successful relationships over time. Respect and trust of this degree has to be built slowly over time and it has to include everyone.This team elevated itself beyond just a high performing team; they became an inspiration to people outside their team. When a team operates from a set of core values, and does so with a high degree of team emotional intelligence, they will continue to grow and succeed even when they fall short of their goals.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.

How Emotional Intelligence Drives Innovation

When we think about innovation, we usually picture someone quirky and isolated, like Yoshiro Nakamatsu the inventor of the floppy disc. When Nakamatsu had a specific mental challenge, he would head down to the pool, dive in, and hold his breath until he was completely deprived of oxygen. When he surfaced, gasping for breath, he would madly scribble down whatever thoughts he had on a waterproof notepad.

Stories like this of the “lone wolf” innovator are popular, but they overlook one of the biggest factors when it comes to innovation: people.

“Innovation is all about people. Innovation thrives when the population is diverse, accepting, and willing to cooperate.” ~ Vivek Wadhwa, Tech Entrepreneur

Even the smallest innovations (like a tweak to an existing process) often require a vast range of interpersonal skills. One idea typically entails an interruption of an existing way of doing something, winning people over to your idea through clear and persuasive communication, and a collaborative rollout of additional changes and tweaks as the idea comes into fruition. That’s why people high in emotional intelligence (EQ) are better equipped to innovate. They’ve already developed many of the necessary skills to effectively disrupt the people and systems around them.

High EQ people can clear their minds and get objective. Good mood, or bad mood, when emotions run high, they ultimately get in the way of our most creative and productive self. High EQ people experience emotions just as intensely as anyone else, but they are more effective at understanding and managing their emotions. This means when they’re faced with a critical decision or crippling problem, they can step back from feeling overwhelmed and gain that much-needed big picture perspective. This ability to get the bird’s eye view even when emotions run high opens up space for innovation and problem-solving. After all, it’s often when we are faced with problems that our temporary solution becomes a lasting innovation—like the Post-It Note which originated as a failed glue that 3M researcher Arthur Fry began to use at home as temporary adhesive for his sheet music.  

High EQ people lean into their discomfort. It’s hard to imagine how many good ideas have been left percolating in people’s minds because they were afraid to share them in the first place. To innovate you have to disrupt, and to disrupt, you have to get uncomfortable. People push back and even resent you when you change the status quo. Anyone who has heard the phrase, “this is just the way we’ve always done it,” has been on the receiving end of innovation pushback. One of the core tenants of emotional intelligence is to recognize that our habits and comforts can hold us back. On the other hand, when you get in the habit of leaning into your discomfort, a couple things happen: 1) Some discomforts become comfortable 2) You fail, and then you learn and grow. It’s a win-win.   

High EQ people craft emotionally-charged pitches. A dramatic example of the power of a good pitch is when Fred Rogers (Mr. Rogers) sought to keep his funding in a 1969 senate hearing before John Pastore, a congressman known for attacking television:

Fred Rogers had prepared to read a 10-minute testimony to Pastore, and just before his turn, Congressman Pastore announced he was tired of hearing people read testimonies. There would be no more reading out loud. Mr. Rogers pivoted and spoke directly to Pastore and the listeners. In less than 4 minutes, and with the lyrics of a children’s song, he addressed trust, expressions of care, and the ability to talk about and manage anger. He also landed 20 million dollars in funding. There’s a lesson to be learned when you watch Fred in action. He didn’t speak fast, he didn’t take the offer to read his 10 minute statement, he wasn’t flashy, and he didn’t use pictures. What he did was take us all back to the child within us and made the case for his innovative approach with children developing a world of future adults able to recognize emotions and manage them productively. Before you set out to win people over to your idea, ask yourself “Who will my idea help and how?” Answering these simple questions will make your effort at disruption more exciting, applicable, and real to your audience, whether it’s a board of investors a congressional hearing, or a five-person team.

High EQ people make the most of their feedback. Ideas and innovations, while often arrived at in a split-second, change and evolve greatly with time. As time passes, outside perspectives come in and unforeseen problems arise. People high in EQ don’t get flustered or discouraged by these nagging problems. Instead, they leverage problems and feedback to grow their idea. They don’t take feedback personally. They sift through it, identifying the helpful comments and the not-so-helpful ones. When high EQ people receive confusing feedback, they question and push to understand it more deeply. The result is that their innovations become more finely tuned more quickly, and they win over allies in the process as they involve other people instead of lashing out at them for differing opinions or pulling away.

From Insights to Action. It’s not just individuals who benefit from high EQ when it comes to innovation. On the organizational level, a high EQ workplace means trust, openness, and inclusivity. As a result, ideas, perspectives, and opinions intersect more frequently, and people, regardless of their level or background, feel unafraid to share, receive criticism, or fail. This degree of openness and trust drives innovation across all levels of the organization.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.

How EQ Powers Patient Care

“What is remarkable is not merely the consequences of a doctor’s negative emotions. Despite research showing that most patients pick up on the physician’s negativity, few of them understand its effect on their medical care.”
-Jerome E. Groopman, M.D. Chair of Medicine at Harvard Medical School

When it comes to patient care, there’s really no such thing as a simple interaction. With health and money top of mind, patients and their families’ emotions inevitably run high and health care professionals rely on an arsenal of interpersonal skills to navigate these tough interactions.

A TalentSmart certified trainer from a major medical center in California shared one example of patients coming into an imaging center for CT scans. Before they even come in, many patients are already frustrated, angry, and scared. And on top of that, it’s not uncommon for imaging departments to fall behind schedule or experience a mechanical issue. For staff, this means trying to keep patients calm and comfortable throughout their wait and appointment, which often entails long periods of time in a claustrophobic environment. Doing so requires empathy, active listening, immediate connection, a high degree of professionalism, and the ability to adjust their approach to meet each patient’s feelings and needs.

The good news is that all of these necessary “soft skills” can be improved simultaneously by practicing one skillset: emotional intelligence (EQ). Emotional intelligence is your ability to recognize and understand emotions, and your skill at using this awareness to manage yourself and your relationships with others.

HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems), the standard patient care survey administered across hospitals, includes 16 questions (of 25 total) about behaviors that can be connected directly to EQ skills. And research over the last decade shows that this overlap of HCAHPS behaviors and EQ skills is more than just a coincidence. EQ drives successful patient care across a variety of positions and experience levels in the hospital environment:

  1. Nurses: Nurses high in social competence are better able to attend to their patients’ comfort. They’re also better equipped to work with a patient’s family or advocate by showing understanding and addressing concerns and questions.
  2. Nursing teams: So much of the work done in the hospital is done by teams, and patients feel the dynamic of the whole team during their stay. It’s incredibly important, for example, for a patient to feel comfortable through the transition from one nurse’s shift to the next. And, it’s important that the patient feels like the team is communicating behind the scenes so that the patient doesn’t have to ask the same questions or repeat the same responses. Teams of nurses high in EQ, especially in the skill of emotion management, are rated by patients as having better overall quality of care and as being more cohesive as a group.
  3. Physicians: Physicians high in EQ have been found to deliver an overall higher level of patient care than other physicians. Physicians who are self-aware and can self-manage are better able to do things like listen actively, choose their words wisely as they share difficult news or complicated information, and deliver thoughtful care.
  4. Surgeons: High EQ has a very positive effect on patient-surgeon relationships. Specifically, this study found that surgeons high in EQ built greater rapport more quickly because they were better able to empathize with patients and express empathy in a way that resonated with the patient.
  5. Medical students, residency, and beyond: Beginning with medical students, studies have found that students with higher EQ ratings scored more highly in patient care surveys. The trend persisted through residency and up into the level of doctor. For medical students, EQ skills can help them establish trust and professional respect from patients. It can also help them learn by developing strong relationships with doctors and other staff.
  6. All hospital staff: One of the most interesting findings with emotional intelligence in healthcare comes from a study in Greece where they found that different staff relied on different aspects of EQ to succeed on the job. Physicians relied heavily on self-management to deal with stress and workload, nurses on self-awareness and social awareness to manage their constant stream of human interactions, and administrative staff on relationship management skills to navigate the variety of conversations from patients and other staff.

From Insights to Action. Perhaps the most important finding in emotional intelligence research is that it is a highly flexible skill. With practice, people who measure low in EQ can work to improve a specific EQ skill within six months to a year.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.

3 Lessons in Team EQ from a Plan Gone Wrong

Whether it’s in the office, on Zoom, on a mountain, or in a boat, the performance of a team lies in that team’s ability to effectively recognize, understand, and manage its emotions. A climbing team in Yosemite found this out as they ventured out to climb Cathedral Peak.  First described in Laurence Gonzales’ book Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, here is a close look at their climb with attention to the role emotions played in their team’s performance.

Their Plan

David, his brother Rob, and their friend Steven were all set to climb Cathedral Peak in Yosemite. They each came into the climb with varying degrees of climbing experience. The route required six rope lengths and Rob had never climbed more than one. That said, the 10,940-foot peak is considered relatively easy, well within his capabilities. As an experienced rock climber, David approached new climbs with his existing mental model of how climbing worked for him. He knew, for example, what types of ropes, anchors, harnesses, carabiners, and quickdraws to use in different situations. The experienced one, David devised the plan for the group. There was another significant element at play though: David approached the climb with a set of positive memories and emotions from past successful climbs. These memories and emotions motivated him to climb again, to try this new challenge with his brother and his friend. Feeling good, he anticipated favorable conditions and success in reaching Cathedral Peak. Due largely to their trust in David, Rob and Steven also felt confident and excited.

Their Climb

Of course, things did not go exactly as planned. The climbers woke up at 4am to find that someone had stolen their food. The plan had been to hike to the base of the peak by 8am, but it took two hours to buy food and this pressured them to catch up to their original schedule. They estimated they could still make it to the summit by 3pm, but to do so, they would have to cut everything a bit closer than originally planned.

They checked the weather board at the rangers’ station and noticed it hadn’t been updated. The day before, the board had forecasted good weather, and a cloudless sky seemed to confirm that. Caught up in their excitement and urge to catch up to their schedule, they ignored an important possibility: Mountainous terrain lends itself to rapid, unpredictable changes in weather. They started their ascent two hours late at 10am and felt good, moving up the face relatively quickly. Once they’d made it two lengths up, a thick layer of storm clouds filled in across the valley. They’d been awake eight hours at this point, and each foot of altitude meant less oxygen to their brains. Feeling the stress growing, friction surfaced between them about the plan. The climb was only getting more complicated, but they ultimately agreed to stick to the plan.

Rain filled in across the valley, and they paused again to discuss whether they should continue. They agreed to press for the top. With emotions and adrenaline running high, they felt driven by an overwhelming impulse for forward-moving action. They agreed to stick to their goal, to press for the top, but now in a nervous race against the weather. The weather caught up to them at the sixth and final length. The rock wall slickened, and hail obscured their vision and chilled their hands. David made it to the summit, but Rob and Steven had one last stretch. Suddenly, Rob and Steven felt all their hair stand on end. A thunderhead had locked onto their bodies, and there was nothing they could do. “Everything around us started to buzz,” they described later. “It was the most terrifying sound I ever heard.” Acting entirely on instinct, Rob and Steven scrambled up the wet face to an overhanging rock in case they were struck. Lightening slammed Rob into the wall in front of him. He heard Steven moan and saw David up at the summit, unconscious. Rob scrambled recklessly up the rest of the face to the summit to help his brother. It was getting late, and they had no way to start a fire, no way to treat David, and no waterproof clothing. What saved their lives in the end, was another climber at the base, planning to climb the next day. He heard them above yelling and radioed for help. They did all survive.

The emotional dynamic in this team nearly killed them. Here are three important team EQ lessons in their near-death experience:

Team EQ Lesson #1: Emotions, good and bad, can get in the way of a team’s performance. David, Rob, and Steven were so caught up in their excitement about the climb that they overlooked multiple signs of potential trouble: the missing forecast at the ranger station, the clouds filling in, and even the rain across the valley. If they had stepped back from their excitement, they may have waited to ensure a safe weather forecast. At organizations, this might include releasing a new product not fully tested for safety, or announcing a deal that isn’t yet signed.  

Team EQ Lesson #2: Norms set the tone, especially in times of confusion. Their plan, though carefully devised, didn’t include a bailout. As a result, they put their lives at risk for a climb they could have done the next day. At organizations, neglecting an “escape plan” can result in work being rushed to a bad finish because the group refused to reevaluate their work. It can also lead to unnecessary or rigid rule-following and enforcement.

Team EQ Lesson #3: Leaders, exercise humility; followers, disagree openly. David was the leader, and as such, he should have been the first person to raise doubt when he realized they were facing real danger. He carries the responsibility to know that his enthusiasm would be contagious to Rob and Steven who relied on him as the experienced leader. Although Rob and Steven were less experienced, two voiced concerns might have sparked more prudence in David, and earlier. This same dynamic happens in organizations. When a leader ignores changing conditions or fails to consider potential risks in a plan, and the team doesn’t feel comfortable voicing their critique, avoidable mistakes will occur.

To learn more about increasing your team’s emotional intelligence, and TalentSmart’s products and programs to facilitate team development, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.

How to Keep Your Cool

“Anger doesn’t have the same way of goading minds as the other vices do; it drags them away, deprives them of self-control, drives them into longing for a harm that will afflict all, provokes rage against not only its target but whatever comes in its way.” –Seneca, On Anger

Seneca’s quote, though 2000 years old, is timeless because it describes something everyone has felt at some point in their life: a total loss of control under the spell of anger. The reason we’ve all experienced anger this way is that anger is hardwired into our brains as a survival mechanism. Anger triggers fight or flight reactions by activating a region of the brain called the amygdala and releasing a surge of hormones. Of course, in the working world and our day-to-day lives, fight or flight survival instincts are much more likely to get in our way than to help us. Left unchecked, anger will cause us to do things like yell in a meeting, pound our fist on a conference table, or walk out of the room in frustration.

Psychologist Dr. Jennifer Lerner found in her recent research on anger and decision-making that anger makes us temporarily more confident, more likely to blame specific individuals, and more prone to dangerous risk-taking. To try to stop our angry impulses, we need to learn to rely on the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for reasoning and decisions. It’s through the prefrontal cortex that we can slow down and contextualize our anger before we act. To help you practice staying calm under the influence of anger, we can look to this ancient philosopher’s work On Anger for six still incredibly relevant strategies.  

1. Take your time. “Sometimes false things give the appearance of truth. One must take one’s time; a day reveals the truth.” Time gives us the mental space we need to avoid acting impulsively on our anger. Sleeping on it, leaving an email in draft form for a few hours or for a trusted friend to read first, or even just counting to ten all present opportunities to use anger more intentionally. You can never take back something you’ve already said, but you can always say it later.

2. “Being deceived is better than being mistrustful.” It’s too easy to assume the worst about someone and then slowly fill in a story proving your mistrust.The problem is that this takes energy. It consumes your thoughts and soon you will find yourself angry over random actions as you mistakenly assume each one is pitted against you. Save your energy, and trust until trust is broken, rather than sapping your energy and patience by making everyone earn your trust.

3. Let the petty things go. “Nothing nurtures anger so much as luxury that lacks restraint and can’t stand setbacks.” The road to an unbearable life is paved with “all the small things.” Instead of wasting time and energy sweating the little stuff, learn to expect that life is imperfect, changing, and downright weird sometimes.

4. “None of us is without guilt.” When you find yourself getting angry or frustrated with someone, remember your own wrongdoings. Then, forgive people the way you would want to be forgiven.

5. Befriend your enemies. “How often has someone thrown theirself at the feet of the person they earlier spurned? What is more glorious than to change one’s wrath into friendship?” A more contemporary take on this is Abraham Lincoln’s “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” What better way to move past anger than to try to fully reverse it and befriend the person you’re angry with.

6. Know your vulnerabilities. “This one wants consideration for high rank; that one, for good looks. One longs to be thought highly refined; another, deeply learned. One can’t abide arrogance; another, stubbornness…One thinks it an injury to be asked for something; another, an insult not to be asked.” We all have different vulnerabilities that trigger our anger. Becoming aware of these triggers can help us pause or slow down to avoid reacting badly in the heat of the moment.

From Insights to Action. “What joy is there in proclaiming our grievances and wasting our brief lifespan, as though we were born to live forever? Why not rather hoard this brief space of life and make it peaceful for yourself and for others?” In other words, turn to the big picture things, good and bad—like family, health, friendships, mortality, and nature—to reframe your perspective. The further you zoom out from your problems, the more trivial they seem. Or as Seneca put it: “Draw further back, and laugh.” 

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.

Empathy Erosion: 5 Strategies to Rebuild Yours

That bitter, older manager in the office who’s always grumbling about the younger generations being “all selfies and no respect” might actually have a bit more bite to his bark than you think. A Notre Dame study tracked empathy levels in college students beginning in 1979 and found that over the course of 30 years, average empathy levels in college students had dropped nearly 50%.

No one is sure exactly why, and speculation runs the gamut. One theory is that people are spending less and less time interacting with each other and more and more time with electronics. Another theory from Australian philosopher Dr. Roman Krznaric is that “digital culture has created an epidemic of narcissism and exacerbated political polarization that divides rather than unites people.”

Whatever may be contributing to this decline in empathy, the good news for all of us is that we can get ahead of this trend personally and even help turn it around. Empathy is something anyone can improve with effort regardless of their baseline. Below, we’ve compiled five strategies you can apply to help strengthen your empathy muscle.

Be curious. “Remember to look up at the stars, not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist.” –Stephen Hawking

Perhaps the best way to grow our empathy is to be genuinely curious about everyone around us. They may not live the way we do or make the same decisions, but each person is their own universe of complexity with unlimited opportunities for learning.

Be aware of “empathy erosion.” You might snap “not now” at your kid as they climb onto your lap during a meeting or shoot off a callous email one evening on your way out the door. These lapses in empathy are examples of what Cambridge psychologist Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen calls “empathy erosion.” Our empathy wanes when we get caught up in an “I” mode of thinking, obsessing over our own thoughts and feelings at the expense of the thoughts and feelings of the people around us. Empathy erosion is the quickest and most common way for even highly empathetic people to act unempathetically. Being more aware of this possibility gives you the choice to remain connected to the thoughts and feelings of the person you are with.

Look deeper in movies and books. “Nearly everyone in the world has appetites and impulses, trigger emotions, islands of selfishness, lusts just beneath the surface.” John Steinbeck’s East of Eden

Beneath every tree is a network of roots equaling the size of the tree. People are like this too—so much of who we are is hidden beneath the surface. As you watch movies or read books, try to see what lies beneath the surface for each character. What problems, successes, emotions, thoughts, values, and beliefs, make them the person they are?

Catch your own confirmation bias. “People generally see what they look for and hear what they listen for.” –Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird

We tend to confirm what we already think, and this includes our preconceived notions of others. Whether we realize it or not, we constantly judge people, and then when they speak or act, we organize their actions into preconceived boxes. Instead, we should strive for a “tabula rasa,” treating each person we meet as a blank slate and each of their actions as a fresh mark to interpret.

Try compassionate meditation. In a two-week, daily meditation study at University of Wisconsin-Madison, one group of people practiced “compassionate meditation” while another group practiced “general positive meditation.” In the compassionate meditation group, participants focused on specific individuals they knew (some they liked, some who were acquaintances, and some who they were actively in a conflict with). Regardless of the relationship, they meditated on that person repeating the phrase “may you be free from suffering.” After two weeks passed, they measured participant brain activity and everyone was asked to spend money to help a fictional person in need. Those who engaged in compassionate meditation offered to donate more money to help. And the area of their brain associated with empathy showed an overall increase in activity. In other words, their empathy grew both in action and neurologically! Try repeating “may you be free from suffering” for your friends, acquaintances and those who pose challenges for you.

From Insights to Action. “Empathy is really important. Only when our clever brain and our human heart work together in harmony can we achieve our full potential.” –Jane Goodall

Empathy is at the core of who we are, and practicing it will restore you, not deplete you. Try the strategies above, and you might be surprised to find that the more empathy you exercise, the more full your life begins to feel as you inspire others and begin to replenish the empathy decline.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.

6 Strategies for Mastering Healthy Conflict

When you think about conflict at work, you might remember an antagonizing boss, petty office politics, and the know-it-all who talks over people. But, if you’re the kind of person who avoids stirring things up and shies away from conflict, we have some bad news for you. You may actually be just as harmful because your avoidance also prevents healthy conflict.

Healthy conflicts, according to a Myers-Briggs Company survey, improve working relationships, increase motivation, and can even trigger major innovations. Though they are uncomfortable, healthy conflicts are the lifeblood of keeping the workplace authentic and human.

In the process of dodging conflict, “nice people” often bottle up their emotions and develop grudges. Ironically, it’s often these same “nice people” who then resort to passive aggressive tactics or lash out when their negative emotions boil over. In the grand scheme of things, it’s sharing your perspective, asserting yourself, and offering constructive feedback that make you nice. Healthy conflict is a form of self-care, and on the group level, it promotes harmony, solutions, and new ideas. Here are six strategies to help you hone your approach to healthy conflict.

Use “and” to make your points, not “but.” One way to engage in a healthy conflict is to make your response an addition instead of a detraction. For example, you might say, “That’s an interesting idea to offer this content in a webinar, and I wonder how we can prevent people from using the rich information we provide in the webinar to avoid subscribing to our membership program.” By using the word “and,” you encourage problem-solving and support the idea offered. By using the word “but” in the same situation, you may come off sounding like you’re trying to poke holes or derail the original idea.

Ask for an explanation. One common instigator of unhealthy conflict is when someone states a new idea as a command without explaining their decision. When this happens, it’s easy to move into hypotheticals and brew on hidden agendas or grudges that don’t actually exist. Instead of brewing, get your clarity by asking questions. Ask what the goal is and why they’re approaching it that way. The added bonus to this approach is that if the stated idea wasn’t well thought out, your questioning may expose holes in their idea and give them an opportunity to pull back and adjust.  

Show some vulnerability. When something doesn’t sound quite right to you, admit that you don’t understand. This encourages an explanation without coming across as an attack. It can also be a good way to find common ground you didn’t realize you had. You may find, for example, that the argument is over the execution, not the desired outcome.

Ask for a potential solution. When you present an idea of your own and someone pushes back, ask for an example. For instance, you might say, “I hear what you’re saying about a November 1st launch date being a potential problem—it is just around the corner. How might we work through that?” This directs the person’s challenge to a more constructive, collaborative place.

Question the impact. “If we try launching pilot versions sooner, then how might that impact our back-and-forths with the content writers and designers?” This is a way of taking something hypothetical and trying to make it more real and more concrete.

Reach an agreement to collaborate. If you find yourself in a detailed conflict with someone, set up a meeting to work through the problem or project one-on-one. Get as specific as possible. Agree to an actual process for how you want to find facts and work through them. Decide together how you want to gather information, analyze it, and reach a decision.

From Insights to Action. Overcoming the discomfort of conflict is a matter of habit. Each time you choose not to engage in a conflict, you get a bit more used to avoiding that discomfort. Having this set of strategies in your back pocket will help you break that habit and assert yourself in a constructive way.  You’ll soon` discover a little discomfort is just part of mastering healthy conflict.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.

Why You Need Emotional Agility to Succeed

How does a salesperson successfully close on the biggest opportunity of her career? What makes an executive leader resilient in the face of massive organizational change? And what makes an insecure new leader rise to the occasion? More often than not, the answer boils down to the way that person navigates and manages their emotions. The salesperson doesn’t let her anxiety take over, but she does lean into her adrenaline to move past barriers and ensure she tries to close. The resilient executive leader devotes extra time to stress management and reminds herself of all the preparation she’s done for these types of moments. The new leader defeats his insecurities by breaking down his job into smaller, achievable pieces.

Each of these people demonstrates a high degree of emotional agility. Emotional agility is the ability to manage your emotions and thoughts in a way that makes you more effective at what you’re doing. In studies across organizations and industries, emotional agility has been shown to reduce stress, increase confidence and resilience, and help people build relationships. According to researcher and author of the 2016 book Emotional Agility, Dr. Susan David, the key to developing emotional agilityis to follow four practices in your thoughts and emotions: 1) recognize your patterns, 2) label your thoughts and emotions, 3) accept your emotions, and 4) act on your values.

To bring each of these practices to life, we’ll follow Shelly who just landed her dream job as a Director of Marketing for an animal shelter. She’s on her first big project, trying to put together a rollout plan across platforms for the entirety of their social media. She knows she should be more focused and motivated than ever, but for some reason, she can’t stop falling into internet holes. What can she do to turn this behavior around?  

1. Recognize Your Patterns. To change a habit, you first need to recognize it. The best starting point is usually the most obvious sign—your behavior. In the case of Shelly, she recognizes that something’s wrong and spots her pattern in behavior quickly: She’s not getting any work done. As soon as she asks herself what’s getting in the way, she immediately knows she is succumbing to distractions.

2. Label Your Thoughts and Emotions. Now that Shelly knows what is getting in the way of her work, the question becomes why. To think about the “why,” she follows a chain of emotions asking herself why along the way. She knows, for example, that she feels anxious, flustered, and guilty as she scans the internet. Why? Because she’s anxious about her new job and this immediate new, big task. But why is she nervous? After all, she ran much of the social media at her previous job. She’s nervous she will fail and lose her dream job. Even more specifically, she realizes that she suffers from a kind of imposter syndrome where she can’t stop imagining her worst-case scenario. Shelly was able to reach this internal kernel of truth by getting as specific as possible with her emotions. When Shelly said she was “anxious” or “nervous,” this got her moving in the right direction, but it was when she arrived at the source of her anxiety that she began to see the bigger pattern. To get yourself moving in a more specific direction with your emotions, check out this comprehensive emotions list, which actually includes words for emotions that only exist in other languages like “toska,” a vague sense of restlessness, “abbiocco,” a sleepy feeling after a big meal, and “umpty,” a feeling of everything being too much and all in the wrong way.  

3. Accept Your Emotions. Once you’re successfully able to label your emotions, it’s important to actually accept them for what they are. Don’t judge them as good or bad. In Shelly’s case, her anxiety won’t magically disappear by recognizing that she’s afraid to fail. However, her acceptance may give her the sense of calm to stop ruminating on hypothetical failure and focus on the task at hand. After all, some degree of failure is inevitable, and she can only control her effort. This might be a good moment to talk with her supervisor about her insight and plan going forward. That supervisor will appreciate Shelly’s growth and may offer her reassurance about making mistakes, which will offer Shelly an additional source of calm.

4. Act on Your Values, Not Your Thoughts. Values give you a sense of distance from your negative emotions by offering a bigger picture perspective. They can also serve as a “rupture point” from cyclic, negative thinking. Shelly, for example, reminded herself that the Marketing Director job for an animal rescue was her dream job because she’d always felt highly connected to animals since at the age of seven when her family adopted a dog. She derived a lot of energy from this value-based thought. Instead of running to the internet, or obsessively thinking about ways she might fail, she focused on making a difference by spreading the word that there were animals who needed homes and seven-year-old girls whose lives would change in the process. She even developed a mantra for when she doubted her own abilities. “You can make a big difference,” she told herself.

From Insights to Action. We have such a constant stream of thoughts in our daily life that we frequently don’t realize the extent to which these thoughts dictate our attitude, actions, and even our outlook. We think of our thoughts as something that “just happens” or are “naturally a part of us.” To be agile with our emotions and thoughts, we have to recognize that our thoughts are under our control. And to get that control, we just need to begin to listen more closely, break them down, and understand them better. For further help with these emotional agility practices, check out these Self-Awareness Strategies in TalentSmart’s Emotional Intelligence 2.0:

  1. Quit Treating Your Feelings as Good or Bad (page 64),
  2. Observe the Ripple Effect of Your Emotions (page 66),
  3. Watch Yourself Like a Hawk (page 75),
  4. Stop and Ask Yourself Why You Do the Things You Do (page 84)
  5. Visit Your Values (page 86)

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit us at https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.

7 Strategies That High EQ Leaders Use

In early March, Wilma was promoted to a sales management position. Although she was experienced at the organization and knowledgeable of their selling strategy, she was entirely new to leading people.

When the pandemic shut their office down a week later, she was thrust into a tumultuous state of change as a new leader. Her company’s goals changed overnight, and the organization’s expectations of her team seemed to shift weekly. Her team sailed rapidly into uncharted territories, and for the first time in her life, Wilma was the one at the helm. To add to this, she was stressed and anxious in her personal life, trying to balance her changing family life (her kids schooling remotely too) with her new work responsibilities.

You might think Wilma succumbed to all this change and stress, but she managed to succeed as a new leader because she leveraged the emotional intelligence (EQ) skills she’d developed over her years in sales. Following Wilma’s immersion into leadership, we can take away seven key EQ strategies for leaders navigating rapid change.

Prioritize self-care. When faced with a set of challenges as extensive and sudden as Wilma’s, many leaders attempt to play “team superhero” and fix everything at once, alone. What they really do is drive themselves into exhaustion and create a tense atmosphere for their team. Wilma knew the value of long-term perspective during high stress times. When she felt her stress surge, she reminded herself that “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and that her team’s success wouldn’t be built in a day either. To succeed long-term, she had to take care of herself day-by-day and hour-by-hour. She got extra vigilant about her sleep, caffeine intake, exercise, and diet. She also practiced a more rigid work-life balance, giving herself ample “unplugged” hours each day to recharge and reset.

Foster a positive environment. When a leader takes control of their own stress and negative emotions the way Wilma did, they positively impact their whole team. Studies show that the emotions of a leader are especially contagious to their teams, for better and worse. Leaders like Wilma who show up to work upbeat and optimistic cause their entire team to see things in a more optimistic light. This increased positivity leads to increased creativity, better decision-making, and even boosts sales. Without realizing it, Wilma was looking after the well-being and performance of her entire team just by practicing self-care and bringing her best possible self to work each day.

Navigate tough conversations. One of the first things Wilma learned about leading people was that it entailed a constant stream of difficult, high-impact conversations. In March alone, she had to check in on a team member struggling with the shift to remote work, make pay cuts to salaries across the team, and even place one team member on furlough. Each of these difficult conversations required a high degree of empathy, active listening skills, and the ability to communicate clearly and effectively. For instance, when she checked in on her struggling teammate, she noticed the changes in his behavior, approached the conversation carefully and at the right time, and was willing to be vulnerable by sharing her own struggles to make him more comfortable.

Exercise humility. When the team needed help strategizing for a healthcare specific client pitch, Wilma knew she lacked experience in healthcare. Instead of insisting she take the lead as manager, she acknowledged the gap in her knowledge and pulled up the most healthcare experienced salesperson, Marcus, to take the lead. She also asked Marcus to coach both herself and their teammate to encourage spread of knowledge.

Be approachable. Wilma kept a virtual open-door policy, holding office hours on her Zoom account once a week where team members could drop in and ask her questions or chat. During team meetings, she encouraged anyone who constructively criticized, offered a differing opinion, challenged someone’s idea, or asked questions of any kind. Her approachability also equated to increased comfort, flow of ideas, and overall fun. People interacted loosely and lightly on her team.

Practice accountability. On the one hand, Wilma held herself accountable for her team and shielded them from higher-ups when mistakes were inevitably made. On the other hand, she also held team members accountable for their own work, trusting them to make decisions for theirself. This made her team quicker and more nimble.

Respond, don’t react. The ability to monitor your emotional reactions in the moment and avoid regrettable or impulsive behaviors is one of the core tenants of EQ. When Wilma’s team members let her down or said something that triggered her, she was careful to avoid reacting in the moment out of frustration, anxiety, or fear. Instead, she took her time in her responses. She slept on big decisions and ran important emails by other managers at her organization.

From Insights to Action. The great thing about the above strategies is that anyone can apply them to grow their emotional intelligence and positively impact the people around them—not just leaders.

To learn more about emotional intelligence and TalentSmart’s EQ products and services, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.

The Secret to Team Performance (And 5 Strategies to Achieve it Virtually)

When Google HR hired a group of psychologists and sociologists to look for patterns in their highest performing teams, they thought team success had something to do with the mixture of personalities, backgrounds, and motivations within the team. After almost 200 team interviews, they still hadn’t found any discernable patterns to confirm their theory. Instead, they found that successful teams all shared one thing in common: a high degree of psychological safety.

Psychological safety is a sense of trust teams establish where people do not feel insecure or embarrassed by the possibility of failure. Studies show that on teams where people feel psychologically safe, people are more willing to share their perspective, take calculated risks, ask questions, admit mistakes, make jokes, challenge each other, and learn from one another.

Of course, developing this degree of trust within a team takes effort. With teams switching to virtual work, the effort to establish trust narrows to time spent on video calls, which can feel more convoluted and distant. To help get your virtual team moving in the right direction, we’ve compiled five concrete ways to build psychological safety in virtual meetings.

Recreate team chatter. Chatting around the table or in the hallway before a meeting doesn’t just pass the time as the group files in. Chatter actually quiets stress in the brain, relaxes people, and builds their courage to share later on during the meeting. To recapture your team’s lost chatter, manufacture it. Kick off meetings by having each person share something unrelated to work. Host a virtual happy hour or online game night. Close meetings by sharing weekend plans. The idea is to build group comfort and get people talking freely and just for fun. Then, when the discussion turns from light to consequential, people are already feeling more comfortable and therefore poised to contribute.

Break out in small groups. Who is quick to speak out among the 32 faces across two screens? No one, usually.People feel safer in small groups, and when people feel safe, they are more likely to open up. And this opening up in small groups actually translates back to the big group. When people report out to the big group, they tend to stand firmer with what they discussed in their breakout. That’s partially because the representative wants to stay true to their discussion group, and it’s also because they feel more supported by the group than they would feel speaking on their own behalf. Breakouts also prevent social loafing in bigger team meetings where many people feel that their individual contributions “aren’t worth the group’s time.”

Map the check-in process. Research shows that rules around communication reduce uncertainty and help build trust. Don’t just assign work vaguely with an arbitrary deadline. Agree to check-in points, check-in subgroups, and a process for completion. This helps hold people accountable as the task moves from hand to hand.

Reward people for risk-taking, candor, and feedback. Be sure to reinforce teammates who show vulnerability and risk-taking, even if you might not agree. Some teams even designate someone to “tell it like it is.” This person may call out things left unsaid, play “devil’s advocate,” and point out when other team members hog the stage, stay too quiet, or criticize unconstructively.

Break the meeting routine. Regularly scheduled meetings and check-ins can easily become routine, possibly becoming monotonous. To avoid people zoning out and counting the minutes, break the cycle: Cancel a meeting occasionally, hold an impromptu team meeting to celebrate a goal reached, call together a small group to devise a plan for a difficult problem, or even try scheduling monthly one-on-ones between randomly assigned team members to build internal relationships.

From Insights to Action. These strategies for creating team trust and safety may seem easy, but the challenge lies in upholding them over time. Commit to these strategies and give them time to grow into a natural part of how your team works together. Each one can make a big difference in your team dynamic and performance.

To learn more about increasing your team’s emotional intelligence, and TalentSmart’s products and programs to facilitate team development, contact TalentSmart at 888-818-SMART or visit https://www.talentsmart.com/contact-us/.